Is College Worth the Price?
by Charles Wang on Friday, December 9th, 2011
A college education has always been assumed to be the foolproof path to obtaining a successful and stable career. This idea has been reinforced by the statistics released every year, illustrating that college graduates earn more than high school graduates. However, many, including the ever-growing Occupy movement, are questioning whether our society has too much of a focus on a college education. Why graduate with $200,000 worth of student loans when you acquired no marketable skills?
In a survey conducted last spring by Pew Research Center, 57% of Americans said that the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. 75% of those people said that college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. These statistics are not surprising given that the average student loan debt has risen to around $24,000 per student, making the total student debt projected to pass $1 trillion this year. For the first time ever, student loan debt has surpassed credit-card debt in the United States.
James Altucher, director of Formula Capital, finds this statistic disheartening, stating that “kids have become indentured servants, taking jobs and pursuing careers they don’t necessarily want.” He believes that students who do not continue their education after high school get a “five-year head start over their peers” and “figure out how to make a lot more money” while also not being held back by having to “deal with massive debt.” Though the idea of only fulfilling a secondary level education is often stigmatized, there is some logic behind Altucher’s opinion.
PayPal’s billionaire co-founder, Peter Thiel, supports Altucher and is actually providing scholarships to kids that have the audacity to drop out of college and pursue an entrepreneurial career on their own. In fact, some of the most powerful individuals in the world never finished their college education, including Larry Ellison (Oracle), Michael Dell (Dell), Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook).
However, these are only a few of the 86.68% of people aged 25 and over in the US that have had uncompleted or simply no college education. To say that you will strike it big with a startup company after finishing high school is as foolish as hoping you will win the lottery.
Yet it is naive to assume that a liberal arts education is right for everyone. In fact, only 55% of college graduates say their college education prepared them for their first job. We might be better served by focusing our energy on vocational schools that give people real marketable skills, as opposed to a broad, general education that might not pay off.
For a student at Milton Academy, one of the top college-preparatory schools in the country, dropping out after high school or not going to college is not really an option. We boast an incredibly high percentage of students who move onto world-renowned colleges and eventually successful careers. Undoubtedly, most Milton alumni fall into the 86% of college graduates who view the college experience positively. However, not everyone is so lucky. So while college is almost surely the best choice for Milton students, we must realize that it is not the best choice for everybody. Unless we make a societal shift towards more skilled, non-college graduates, our nation will remain in a perpetual spiral of student loans and uncontrolled debt.
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